DODEA-Pacific's Far East Division I cheerleading champion Kubasaki Dragons.

DODEA-Pacific's Far East Division I cheerleading champion Kubasaki Dragons. (DODEA-Pacific)

Erika Samluk spent most of the winter cheerleading season limited in what she could do by an ankle injury. No stunts, no jumps, no tumbles; just vocal cheers from the stands in support of her teammates.

So when she finally got her walking boot off her leg Jan. 10, the Kubasaki senior said she felt a mix of relief and nerves as the DODEA-Pacific Far East cheer competition approached.

“I was a little bit worried about not having my skills back and not being able to perform at my best,” Samluk said Tuesday, when it was announced that her Dragons had won the Division I cheer team title. And Samluk was named D-I All-Far East for the second straight year.

“I did the best as I could with the best support from all my teammates and coaches,” Samluk said. “I was very happy winning All-Far East for the second year and especially being the cheerleaders from Kubasaki to be able to represent our school.”

It was the second time for the Dragons to win the D-I cheer title in five years and the fourth time since 2003.

Kubasaki scored 170 points, followed by Guam High (162), Humphreys (150½), defending champion Kadena (150) and Nile C. Kinnick (144½).

On the Division II side, Zama brought home its third Far East banner since 2015, and fourth overall in school history dating back to 1989 when Zama was a D-I school.

The Trojans scored 179½ points, followed by last year’s champion Yokota (171), host Matthew C. Perry (148½), Osan (148) and E.J. King (131).

Coach Megan Catalano said she and her Dragons had been on pins and needles awaiting word about the team title.

“I just told the girls no matter what, they performed their best as a team that I’d ever seen,” Catalano said. “When I Facetimed them and told them the results, they were all in tears.”

She said she was especially happy for Samluk to perform as she did during the competition, held Jan. 29-31 at Perry High School.

“She had only been cleared 18 days before we got on that flight” to Iwakuni, Catalano said. “For her to get out of that boot and get over that fear of getting injured again, to go out there and kill it, she just had me in tears.”

While competing was a relief for Samluk, Rory Legg was seeking redemption for Zama coming up short in last year’s cheer competition; the Trojans finished second by less than five points to Yokota.

“She told me she was coming back for that banner,” Zama coach Lyndsay Morrison said of Legg, a senior, and her determination to return and take the next step to a title. Zama also won D-II banners in 2015 and 2017.

“We’re elated,” Morrison said. “Last year, we came in second and our five returners felt they had something to prove. Definitely, we have a lot to feel happy for.”

Legg, who like Samluk was named All-Far East for the second straight year, brings advanced tumbling and dance skills to the Trojans, Morrison said. Besides Legg and the four other returners, Zama welcomed four freshmen to the group.

“They’ve all been really great, bringing a lot of different skill sets to the table and they complement each other,” Morrison said. “They know how to play off each other’s strengths and make a great presentation for the audience.”

Division I

Kubasaki 170, Guam High 162, Humphreys 150½, Kadena 150, Nile C. Kinnick 144½

Division II

Zama 179½, Yokota 171, Matthew C. Perry 148½, Osan 148, E.J. King 131

All-Far East team

Division I: Erika Samluk (repeat selection), Kubasaki; Ava Sims, Addison Schantz (repeat selection), Kayla Walker, Kadena; Sophia Min, Courtney Jackson, Humphreys; Cierrah Herrera, Jensen Flahaut, Katelyn Lunsford, Ellie Steffens, Guam High.

Division II: Rory Legg (repeat selection), Milia Jimenez, Zama; Malia Hutchins (repeat selection), Kohana Thai, Yokota; Alayna Refugio (repeat selection), Shayla Dahlgren, Kurtisy Chase, Alyssa Lorenzo (repeat selection), Robert D. Edgren; Adelicia Ramirez, Perry; Gabriella Barrera, King.

DODEA-Pacific's Far East Division II cheerleading champion Zama Trojans.

DODEA-Pacific's Far East Division II cheerleading champion Zama Trojans. (DODEA-Pacific)

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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